Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Zoning - Permitted Uses

In purchasing a commercial building, you need to pay particular attention to the zoning bylaw, and how it applies to your use. Often times, assumptions are made regarding the zoning on a property – perhaps it is even zoned commercial – but at some later stage, you discover the applicable zoning bylaw does not permit your specific use. After the fact this can become very problematic and often costly to correct.

Best practice here is to confirm with the local municipality, that your USE IS PERMITTED WITHIN THE APPLICABLE BYLAW. If there is any doubt, second opinions are good. Best options then are with your solicitor or officials within the municipality itself.  Municipalities will typically want any requests for a zoning confirmation (or interpretation on a use) in writing – but will likewise respond in writing, which is obviously preferred.

Other factors which you may need to consider:

i)                    Does the existing bylaw allow for a change(s) in the business?
ii)                   Are there parts of the bylaw you cannot comply with (ie. parking)?
iii)                 Is the bylaw consistent with the neighbouring district?
iv)                 Is the bylaw marketable for purposes of re-sale?
v)                  Are there any pending changes (municipally) to the bylaw?
vi)                 Costs associated with obtaining a re-zoning should it be needed?

On the final point above, this assumes that the site does not allow for the use which you propose. Bear in mind that in order to amend the zoning, you are likely looking at months, not weeks, to go through the municipal process.  This in turn adds a further ‘major condition’ to the Offer to Purchase, which obviously has implications with both the Seller and likely your negotiation strategy. If it then becomes a reality with your deal - make sure you are clear on the costs, the process, and any other municipal requirements which apply.

Again, seek out an experienced commercial broker with strong local backgrounds, to assist you in the area of zoning compliance with respect to your purchase.

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